ASD and Dimond Respond to School Closure, Future Reopening

Despite the current emergency orders involving mask mandates and restrictions of large gatherings, local schools are facing many challenges on the road ahead to recovery.

To provide context, the Anchorage School District has had to be closed since March due to the pandemic. 

In August, there was talk of when and how reopenings would begin, but as the months progressed there were large surges in Covid cases, causing the district to delay those reopenings further and further to where now there is no certain reopening date or plan. 

Natalia Sears, a math teacher at Dimond High School, stated, ”The concern in regard of opening the schools is lack of procedure.” 

This puts stress on the teachers and families alike ranging from childcare to how outbreaks are going to be prevented inside schools.

A similar sentiment has been reflected in other staff. 

Dimond English teacher Anne Morris, stated, ”I’m concerned that with the opening, and the inevitable closings for cleanings and outbreaks, we will return to the chaos of last spring’s 4th quarter.” 

On the other hand there is concern about the students and their ability to learn during these trying times. There is a worry about the need of students to be in class while also maintaining safety protocols. 

Sears stated, ”I strongly believe that students should learn in a classroom, not in a bedroom, but I did not see any ASD plans for re-opening the schools.”

A similar message was conveyed by Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop in her statement to ASD.

In a letter to ASD families and community, Bishop stated, ”Delaying in-person learning has been a heartbreaking decision, as we all have become aware that the best way to ensure we educate all children for success in life includes in-person learning.”

Not only are the students having issues with adjusting to online learning, the teachers are having similar if not more trouble figuring out how to navigate online learning. 

Sears stated, ”The biggest challenge teaching in Zoom is the lack of participation and feedback from students, it is like teaching math to classroom walls.”

Other issues include internet connectivity as well as participation. 

Morris stated, “One challenge of AP classes online is the flow of discussions. 

“Discussion makes us better thinkers and better writers. This learning process is hard to do with freezes and glitches and Zoom.”

Though many are worried about what the district’s response effort will be, there has been praise of their current efforts to keep students safe and learning.

Morris stated, “It feels like the district did many things right and protected our community like cancelling travel, training athletes in protocols, and moving classes online.

  “I’m still impressed by their ability to provide technology, books, and even food for kids who need it.”

With the confusion around when reopenings will happen and how they will happen Dimond High School Principal Tina Johnson-Harris offers some clarity.

 Johnson-Harris stated, “We realize that there are some logistical issues with the social distancing aspect and are still working to problem-solve those issues. 

“When we re-enter the building the mitigation plan will have been reviewed, finalized, and ready. The mitigation plan will be released to the Dimond community to allow families to make decisions about returning in person.”